Iron-regulatory proteins, iron-responsive elements and ferritin mRNA translation

Int J Biochem Cell Biol. 1999 Oct;31(10):1139-52. doi: 10.1016/s1357-2725(99)00080-1.


Iron plays a central role in the metabolism of all cells. This is evident by its major contribution to many diverse functions, such as DNA replication, bacterial pathogenicity, photosynthesis, oxidative stress control and cell proliferation. In mammalian systems, control of intracellular iron homeostasis is largely due to posttranscriptional regulation of binding by iron-regulatory RNA-binding proteins (IRPs) to iron-responsive elements (IREs) within ferritin and transferrin receptor (TfR) mRNAs. the TfR transports iron into cells and the iron is subsequently stored within ferritin. IRP binding is under tight control so that it responds to changes in intracellular iron requirements in a coordinate manner by differentially regulating ferritin mRNA translational efficiency and TfR mRNA stability. Several different stimuli, as well as intracellular iron levels and oxidative stress, are capable of regulating these RNA-protein interactions. In this mini-review, we shall concentrate on the mechanisms underlying modulation of the interaction of IRPs and the ferritin IRE and its role in regulating ferritin gene expression.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ferritins / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Iron-Regulatory Proteins
  • Iron-Sulfur Proteins / metabolism*
  • Protein Biosynthesis*
  • Protein Isoforms / metabolism
  • RNA, Messenger*
  • RNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism*
  • Response Elements*


  • Iron-Regulatory Proteins
  • Iron-Sulfur Proteins
  • Protein Isoforms
  • RNA, Messenger
  • RNA-Binding Proteins
  • Ferritins